Taniela Tupou admits Mark Nawaqanitawase’s NRL defection will leave a big hole in the Wallabies after the world class winger jumped ship to the Roosters.
Nawaqanitawase will continue to play for the Waratahs in Super Rugby Pacific next year and will be available for Wallabies selection in 2024.
The 23-year-old will then essentially trade places with Roosters star Joseph Suaalii, who joins the Rugby Australia books in October.
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Nawaqanitawase will play for the Roosters in 2025 and 2026 before a potential return to the Wallabies in 2027 when Australia hosts the Rugby World Cup.
Fast, strong and exceptional under the high ball, Nawaqanitawase was arguably Australia’s best player during a disastrous 2023 under Eddie Jones.
“Look, he’s done well, he’s done well for himself and for our team, the Wallabies, and we’re definitely going to miss him,” fellow superstar Tupou told reporters.
“But I think it’s what’s best for him and, yeah, I wish him all the best. I don’t know, I’m just here as a mate, as a teammate and support him whatever he does and I know he’ll do the same for me. So I’m I’m not going to comment.
“I’m just going to say I wish him all the best and hopefully he goes well.”
Another of Nawaqanitawase’s teammates, Angus Bell, was confident rugby could ride out the storm with the British and Irish Lions tour on the horizon in 2025.
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“That’s completely up to Marky and what he does,” Bell said.
“I don’t think people will lose interest. The World Cup wasn’t good and as we know, we weren’t good enough there. It’s never going to be a positive, but I believe there are plenty of kids coming through the system that can aspire to be Wallabies and who want to play for the Wallabies.”
RA chief executive Phil Waugh also did his best to put on a brave face.
“We are disappointed – Mark has been a strong player over the last 12 months.
“However, the outside backs are a position of strength for us, with great depth coming through,” Waugh said.
“We are confident we are well stocked with talented wingers for the future.”
Former Wallabies prop Ben Alexander, however, called the move a “disaster.”